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It’s all about the people…

I am often asked what is the secret sauce at SETsquared – what is it we do that wins us the awards and gives our companies the best springboard for success? I think it’s essentially very simple – it’s the people involved and the people-centric approach.

Being an entrepreneur is tough. There’s a lot to do, a lot to learn and a lot of ways to fail. It can be an invigorating space to occupy, but it can also be a lonely place. The founding principle here at SETsquared is that everything we do to support an entrepreneur is bespoke to what they (and their company) need at that moment.

We don’t automatically enrol them with a bunch of random mentors. We don’t push them through some standard workshops that teach generic skills. The on-boarding process involves a series of diagnostics meetings where our staff, the community manager, the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and others spend time with the founders, properly understanding where they are on their journey, and where targeted support is most needed.

Throughout the (typically) two years a founding team spend in SETsquared, we get to know each other very well. The support will flex and change, but the needs of the founders are always central to the support we design for them. Sometimes we will help them achieve some quick wins, sometimes it’s about supporting a longer program of development around capabilities, skills or structure. We will deploy different people, with different experiences to help and support transitions, or provide rigorous challenge when required.

Of course, that also means we need the right people in our team too. I’m the first to admit I have a healthy ego, but my role at SETsquared means I leave that at the door. It’s all about the ventures’ needs. I’ve also realised during my years here that there’s no better feeling than seeing a company you’ve helped flourish and grow, raise investment, hire new people, win big deals and win awards.

In my personal incubation program, I’ve ‘grown’ two teenagers and there are a lot of similarities. Incubation is about providing a safe environment for growth – not a restrictive environment. Kids fall out of trees, but you don’t let them climb mighty oaks until they’ve had a few scrapes from falling out of your small apple tree in the back garden. They learn from the challenges and setbacks, and it’s the same at SETsquared. We don’t prevent failure – we encourage risk taking with support to assist the learning and the growth potential.

The final point to make is that, unlike my teenagers, our companies grow at their own rate and we are comfortable with that process. There is no deadline – markets wax and wane, customers delay purchasing, developing leading edge technologies doesn’t always run to time – we know all this and as long as the company and founders remain committed to that growth path, we’re in it for the long haul. It’s tough enough running a startup – you need to know SETsquared has your back!

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SETsquared is a partnership between

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
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  • University of Surrey